IFI/VEX - Illegal Sales Practices

Recently, several discussions have emerged both on the VEX Forum and on Chief Delphi surrounding illegal conduct at IFI. I thought it might be beneficial to share a past experience I’ve had with IFI’s sales practices and customer support; an experience from 8 months ago that I didn’t know was significant until I read about the FTC’s regulations today.

On March 12 of this year, I ordered two packs of SKU 276-1902, which each contain two 2.75” omnidirectional wheels. I had been planning to build an X-drive, and needed four omnidirectional wheels for it. This is the confirmation I received from VEX immediately after ordering.

This was also the invoice I saved for my order which shows the same purchase of two packs of wheels.

The wheels were shipped on March 14, and I patiently waited for the wheels to arrive so that I could get to building my drivetrain.

The wheels were delivered and at first I didn’t suspect anything unusual. My mom picked up the package from the porch and put it in my room; just a small cardboard box that should have two sets of two wheels in them. However, when I opened the box, I found more wheels than I had ordered; it was double the amount such that I received eight wheels in total when it should have been four.

I was perplexed, because in my order it shows that I ordered two packs, but it says here that they shipped me four packs. I wasn’t too sure why, and I didn’t exactly know what I was going to do with the extra four wheels I got, so I just kind of brushed it aside and thought maybe a local team would want the extras in the future.

Fast forward to March 23, 11 days later. I received the following email from VEX Support.

Receiving this email was more or less to be expected since my unexplained possession of eight wheels was an anomaly in and of itself. However, I panicked a bit after this email because even though they offered me a prepaid FedEx label, I had no idea how to even go about delivering this package back to Greenville. In one moment, I was a high school student with nothing on my mind but building an X-drive with my new omnidirectional wheels, and in the next, I felt as if I was some kind of criminal in the eyes of VEX Robotics and IFI for not returning a package I didn’t ask for in the first place.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that VEX’s threat of charging me for the duplicate order was illegal per FTC regulations. As stated by their website:

By law, companies can’t send unordered merchandise to you, then demand payment. That means you never have to pay for things you get but didn’t order. You also don’t have to return unordered merchandise. You’re legally entitled to keep it as a free gift.

In the end, I did nothing and kept the wheels, not knowing how I would go about shipping them back. On April 12, I received the following email from Melissa Cooper.

The attached invoice contained this.

I received this invoice on April 12, yet all of the dates in this new invoice say March 14, two days after I placed my order, and seemingly immediately after the package shipped from Greenville. The charge is identical to the one that was made on March 12, the original purchase date: $68.96.

This clearly implies that VEX knew very well that they shipped me twice the amount that I ordered, and made no attempt to correct it. On top of this, it now appeared as if I had to pay $137.92 in total for this one order, when the total should have only been half of that. However, it’s possible that my bank ended up throwing out the extra charge due to them suspecting it as a duplicate. This is unclear as of right now, though.

Similar things have been reported by others, such as @Boomie-7492 on Chief Delphi. After Boomie’s post, @DRow replied in the FRC discord server and stated that this wasn’t possible.

For reference, my order number was 11909481. The first invoice number was 1155103. The second invoice number was 567559.

VEX Robotics was aware that they sent me parts I did not order, and they knowingly and willingly broke the law to charge me for them. Using the VEX Robotics system is a hobby and a great passion of mine, and so it pains me that the manufacturers of the parts and electronics I use so often would go as far as to try and manipulate me into illegally giving them an extra $68.96.

Now, I am a student in college, and I was looking forward to competing in VEXU. A few days ago I placed another order from VEX, purchasing 2.75” traction wheels and 6:1 motor cartridges which I was planning to use for a personal project. However, after discovering all of the shady business practices and outright illegal activity occurring within IFI and VEX Robotics, it’s safe to say that this order may have been my last, as I can no longer trust IFI or VEX Robotics to comply with consumer protection policy as laid out by the FTC.

EDIT:
After talking with @DRow, I can confirm that as far as the accounting work goes, the situation appears to be resolved; I believe that I am in possession of the $68.96 that I was supposed to be charged by VEX according to their email. Legally, however, I still maintain my concerns; VEX Robotics should not be threatening to charge their customers for receiving shipments they did not order. While I appreciate @DRow for taking initiative and reaching out to me about the situation, this incident shows that there seems to be a greater issue at play within the company. Additionally, there are still too many unknowns. What was the outcome of the invoice I received on April 12? Can we confirm our suspicions fully and say that this was deliberate, or do we put our trust in IFI and VEX Robotics, chalking it up to a simple logistical error? The issue is that it’s hard to know any of this because it happened so long ago. I still regret not pursuing the issue further back then, but I’m glad it’s being talked about now.

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Did they charge you twice for shipping?

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this entire saga just keeps getting better.

sorry for spending more on your x-drive

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Yes. The charge was identical to the previous one.

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lmao they made you pay for the prepaid return label you didnt use or ask for

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Let me jump in here as a former reseller. I’ve done this, customer ordered X but I ordered the wrong quantity and it was shipped. So that’s on me. But VEX asked you to send the stuff back, free of charge, all you needed to do was stick it in a box, slap the label on it and drop it off in any one of the thousands of locations. And when I’ve screwed up I’ve gone and said, “Hey you got 120 of those when you ordered 12, can I pick the others up” and across the 14 years of being a reseller people went “Sure, thanks”

And I’ll pass on the panicked part since three paragraphs above you alluded to Mom. Maybe asking her what to do would have worked? Your coach? You had lots of options other than ignoring this.

The FTC rule is there to keep people from scamming you, not to keep them from trying to fix an error.

So what you are talking about is not an “ILLEGAL SALES PRACTICE” it’s a company trying to fix an error.

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Yes, it is. It’s a company trying to fix their error through illegal means. How is this not in direct violation of FTC policy?

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You seem to forget that the FTC’s regulations directly state that I should have been under no financial obligation to return the order in the first place; they can’t send me something I didn’t order and demand payment for it. It’s illegal.

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Tell me how sending a free return label is an illegal practice please.

They said unless you want to keep them then thats fine, but if not send them back, it’s free. This happens a lot and most people go “yea, it’s fine, I’ll send it back”.

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This is not what’s illegal in this scenario, I think you are missing the point.

It was not “fine” in this scenario because there was money at stake. They stated:

we will acknowledge that you have decided to keep the duplicate shipment and will proceed to charge the credit card on file accordingly

This is illegal per the FTC.

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Sending a free return label is perfectly alright. What isn’t alright is demanding that the customer use the free return label, under threat of being charged money. It feels like you are deliberately missing the point.

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I think the most important question is why did VEX still have your credit card on file a month later. They shouldn’t have the need to store that and by storing it they are opening you up to a lot of future identity theft concerns. @DRow mentions in the screenshot they don’t store CC information but clearly something sketchy is going on.

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Given the evidence you have, keep in mind the FTC has a reporting website for things like this. I also suggest reading their FAQ.

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To be fair, it is common practice for online retailers to retain payment information for customer convenience, return payments, and subscriptions. However, it is completely unacceptable, and usually illegal, to charge the card without authorization.

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It is very innappropriate for them to charge you without authorization. They can not use silence as authorization. It is perfectly fine for them to ask for you to return the items and send you a return label. I would have returned the wheels, however you are not obligated to return the wheels. This was their mistake and they are in the wrong for charging you. I would take this up the chain. Start by disputing the charge with the CC company. Write a letter to vex.

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From the FTC website:

What should I do if the unordered merchandise I received was the result of an honest shipping error?

If you believe that the unordered merchandise is the result of an honest shipping error, contact the seller and offer to return the merchandise provided the seller pays for postage and handling.

The OP knew it was wrong, the vendor said it was an error and offered a free fix.

Sort of sad to think I’m the lone person here who gets a bad order and calls and says “Hey, have too many of these what should I do?” vs just keeping it. Sure wish I knew that when Boeing shipped that second 787 to me and like a idiot I called about it. They sent Chuck the pilot over to pick it up. Who knew I could have a fleet of planes now??

Credit cards (former Credit Card Company Employee here) have processes for vendors to fix errors in charging. Reprocessing the charge is one method.

People make errors, people try to fix errors in a reasonable fashion.

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That’s not what happened here though. In the screenshot of Vex’s email in the original post, they specifically said:

“If you do not respond within 72 hours we will acknowledge you have decided to keep the duplicate shipment and will proceed to charge the credit card on file accordingly.”

Bullet 2 of https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/ftc_gov/pdf/NOPO-Unordered-Merchandise.pdf from Penalty Offenses Concerning Unordered Merchandise | Federal Trade Commission says that Vex making that statement is illegal.

Vex then followed through on that statement and charged the OP for the unordered merchandise without the OP’s consent (see invoices from the OP’s post), which is also illegal.

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I had the chance to talk with @DRow about the logistics of the order. I’ve made the following alterations to the post so that the information is more accurate; I feel like I owe that much to DRow for being willing to reach out to me. Please feel free to re-read the story with this new information, but know that my stance still remains the same on IFI and VEX Robotics.

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